When we think of sound as just another element in the design of physical spaces—like light, color, or materials—a new range of experiential possibilities opens up. Soon, the all-new Sonos Amp will offer a new way to power the sound of those experiences.

 

We tend to think of architecture and interior design as visual mediums, but in reality, the experience we have in any given physical space is multi-sensory. Much like home furnishings and the paint on the walls, sound strongly colors the overall feel of a room. What if we thought of sound in our homes the way we thought of flooring or paint colors—something that brings every room together and makes them part of a cohesive whole? That’s the idea behind sonic architecture.

“Sonic architecture is really just about actively considering how to incorporate sound into the spaces where people live and meeting them where they are, not where we think they should be,” explains Sonos Vice President of Design Tad Toulis.

It’s with this concept in mind that Sonos set out to develop Sonos Amp. The versatile, new home audio amplifier powers traditional wired speakers with sound from just about any source—not only the dozens of streaming services available on Sonos but directly from televisions, turntables, compact disc players, and other audio devices. Like other recent Sonos products, Amp will support Airplay 2 as well.

“There’s something really powerful about being bathed in sound all the time from all directions.”

Rather than operating as a speaker itself, Sonos Amp allows you to bring other speakers into your Sonos system, whether they be vintage, free-standing stereo speakers you want to show off or the type you can’t see at all; Amp was made to power speakers that are built into ceilings and walls, or even tucked away outdoors. In fact, early next year Sonos will partner with architectural audio leader Sonance to release a series of three such speakers, each one optimized to work with Sonos Amp and the Sonos platform.

“You know when you’re walking around a store or hotel and there’s music on, but you don’t have to see the source or think about where the sound is coming from? We want to be able to bring that experience into people’s homes,” says Sonos Product Manager Benji Rappoport.

For many years, the quest for the ultimate home listening experience required people to run wires all over their homes and make space for big, boxy speakers. Retrofitting ourhomes for amazing sound was expensive, difficult, and niche. The Connect:Amp—the first product Sonos created and the first digital streaming amplifier on the market—made it possible for listeners to wirelessly connect audio equipment and easily transform rooms into listening spaces optimized for sound. Since the release of Connect:Amp in 2005, Sonos has evolved into a robust home sound system comprised of speakers like the all-in-one Play:5, soundbars like Beam, Playbase, and Playbar, and the more compact (yet impressive-sounding) Sonos One smart speaker. While this line-up of speakers has evolved into a robust and versatile home sound system capable of filling every room with clear, amazing sound, the more customized needs of the installed solutions pros and DIY home sound tinkerers have evolved as well.

In order to realize the future of sonic architecture, the team had to look back. After nearly a decade, it was time to upgrade Connect:Amp, which had become the Sonos solution for in-wall and in-ceiling speakers. Rappoport and the team connected with Sonos customers, partners, and installed solutions (IS) professionals to see how Connect:Amp was being used and identify ideas and priority features to work into the new Sonos Amp.

“We were shocked to learn that so many people had Connect:Amp set up with home theater,” says Rappaport. “It’s not designed for that experience, so we knew that our next component would have to include a TV input.”

In the process of listening to installed solutions professionals and other customers, the team also learned that a lot of custom, amp-powered Sonos systems start with speakers that are installed outdoors. To handle those kinds of uses, Sonos’s next amplifier had to include more power.  Specifically, Amp boasts 125 watts per channel and supports up to four speakers.

“Sonic architecture is really about actively considering how to incorporate sound into the spaces where people live and meeting them where they are.”

With more than twice the power of its predecessor, Amp can handle the demands of a  5.1 surround sound system, power-hungry vintage speakers, and outdoor speakers. “It quite literally expands the Sonos listening experience to your backyard,” Rappoport explains.

The need to deliver so much power had to be balanced with the team’s ambition to make Amp compact and optimized to fit standard A/V racks. But Amp wasn’t just made for racks. Inspired by the earliest shapes of sound—a round record on a turntable, a CD in its square case—the design celebrates the history of sound while maintaining a very modern aesthetic.  “It fits easily into spaces that are sonically relevant, like the credenza with the turntable because it just looks like the kind of thing you want to show off,” explains Rappaport.

“In a way, Amp is the poster child of sonic architecture because of the outcomes it enables,” says Toulis. “It can live out of sight, powering listening experiences. It can be out in the open, converting those classic speakers you inherited for streaming or integrating a record player into your modern setup.”

Plus, Amp powers a new manifestation of sonic architecture: the smart home. “Amp becomes a piece of infrastructure that ties all the technology in your home together,” explains Rappaport. In addition to powering entertainment sound experiences, Amp supports services such as voice assistants, security systems, and other smart home technology. Starting in September 2018, Sonos will further evolve its developer platform by fully opening up to all potential partners and will also add a new set of Control APIs, making it easier than ever to integrate Sonos into a wide range of other services and platforms.

“Investing in Sonos for sound is actually an investment in your ability to live smarter in the future. We’re not a speaker company. We’re a software company that creates experiences for speakers.”

For Sonos, listening is always at the heart of these experiences, whether it’s streaming an album, watching a movie, listening to the daily weather report from Alexa, or hearing your doorbell in crystal clear detail from built-in speakers all over your home.

“There’s something really powerful about being bathed in sound all the time from all directions,” Rappaport says. “Even before civilization, humans would be surrounded by the sounds of the natural world. Our ears were designed to filter all the different layers. Architectural sound expands on that.”


The all-new Sonos Amp is twice as powerful as its predecessor, supports Apple’s AirPlay 2 and more than 100 streaming services, and includes an HDMI Arc port for TVs.  Launching globally in February 2019, the $599 Amp will be available to professional installers in the United States and Canada starting Dec. 1, 2018. 

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